Matthew Norman's Media Diary

Monday 07 February 2005 01:00

In seeking a point of comparison for the photo published last Friday, it seems there is no escaping the outer limits of hyperbole.

In seeking a point of comparison for the photo published last Friday, it seems there is no escaping the outer limits of hyperbole. Odysseus making it home to Ithaca after 20 years away, Muhammad Ali standing triumphantly over the outstretched body of George Foreman, the Prodigal Son sitting down with his father for that roast beef lunch, Dirty Den returning to Walford with a throatily insouciant, "'Ello, Princess"...Do any of these comebacks quite do justice to the snap of Alastair Campbell striding towards No 10 last week - smart, blue, A4 notebook in left hand; right hand itching to form itself into a fist - for an election planning meeting? No one emerges from this arrangement with anything but credit. Considering his frantic schedule (that vital crusade against media cynicism and dishonesty, for instance, and training to be the British Lions' kit man in New Zealand), it's tremendous of Ali to carve out the time. As for the PM, it's a tribute to the acuteness of his political antennae that he wants to be so closely associated with a man who did so much to safeguard his reputation as a pretty straight kind of guy. "Britain: Forward not Back" is the fiendishly clever slogan for Labour's new poster campaign... and how better to drum home this idea of leaving the grubby past behind than recalling Ali to the centre of the sofa-huggers' network. As for the Tories, far be it from us to offer the warring factions at Central Office an idea. But footage of Alastair giving his triumphal post-Hutton press conference and storming into the Channel 4 studio could refresh the most lacklustre election broadcast.

* How depressing to hear that the dramatic job cuts at the Telegraph began with the departure of Brenda Haywood as group executive editor. For so many years, Brenda did a heroic job of watching expenses like a hawk, never more effectively than with Conrad Black and his lovely wife Barbara, who memorably reclaimed a tenner for tipping a doorman. A warm, humorous and delightful person, even by the standards of newspaper management, Brenda will be grievously missed by anyone in the firm who still has a job of their own, and we wish her the very best for the future.

I am deranged with fury over a Daily Mail report about my friend Gerald Kaufman. According to the Ephraim Hardcastle column, the Countryside Alliance has named one of its racehorses Dame Gerald, in honour of the virulently anti-hunting chair of the Commons' select committee on the media. Dame Gerald will apparently make its racecourse debut, presumably on the flat, by the end of April. There is no word on the gender, or whether gelded if male - but we're straying from the point, which is, of course, the spiteful persecution of one who deserves some basic respect. The Jockey Club has strict rules about the naming of horses (I'm a Country Member was the last noteworthy failure for its censorship procedures). If there is nothing there at present to protect Gerald from this sort of puerile abuse, perhaps it's time they tightened them even more.

* In an audacious bid to widen the mag's appeal, senior executives at Loaded have been instructed to spend time with 17-year-old boys in order to crack the age-old mystery of what it is that interests them. No more tits and bums, rock and pop, football or general adolescent merriment, then, once this cleverly conceived review is concluded. Just 19th-century bucolic verse, theology and violin sonatas all the way.

A warm hat off, meanwhile, to a man who, perhaps, should be at Loaded, but holds the title of art director at that home of the effete and trendy aesthete, Wallpaper* magazine. Tony Chambers has been telling his drinking friends of the cab firm he uses, based outside the London club Cabaret; and particularly the woman driver of African origin who offers fellatio as an inducement to book her for a drive home. Tony says he graciously accepted this offer, repaying the kindness by stealing what he thought was a CD; but which proved to be a DVD of her wedding. If Loaded aren't in touch by Thursday, Tony is advised to stand by for a call from the acting publisher of The Spectator.

* The sudden disappearance of John Sweeney's investigation into the killing of six Royal Military Policemen (Redcaps) by an Iraqi mob is intriguing. The programme was due to go out on BBC2 on the Thursday before last, but vanished from the schedule to be replaced - and this is the one consolation - by Jeremy Clarkson driving around France. Going out of its way to be helpful, the BBC cites "editorial reasons", while John has yet to return a call. If anyone can help clear this one up, please do.

Many thanks to the reader who e-mailed in response to the recent item about deed poll and the teddy-boy film critic Mark Kermode, whose ranking of The Exorcist as one of the finest movies made cements his reputation as the most important of Newsnight's Late Review cultural pundits. According to this schoolmate of Kermode, the surname was indeed Fairey; a brother of his retaining it while Mark chose to move on.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments